Christmas tree for state capitol plucked from El Dorado County |

Christmas tree for state capitol plucked from El Dorado County

Eric Jaramishian / Mountain Democrat
A Douglas fir is suspended from a Diamond Crane rig as it is slowly set down on a Cal Fire truck and trailer for transportation to the state capitol building where it will be decorated for the holiday season. The tree was cut at the Placerville Ranger District station in Camino Nov. 3.
Eric Jaramishian/Mountain Democrat

It has been seven years since a Douglas fir was plucked from El Dorado County to serve as the state capitol’s Christmas tree.

The conifers were instead pulled out of California’s state-run forests and that would have been the case this year if tree-cutting crews had not been caught in a blizzard near Whitmore in Shasta County. 

Everyone involved made it out without harm but a last-minute decision had to be made to use a tree from the Eldorado National Forest, found just outside of the Placerville Ranger District station on Eight Mile Road in Camino Nov. 3.

Tom Anderson, 66, owns Diamond Crane out of Diamond Springs and has had the pleasure of assisting personnel from Cal Fire, the U.S Forest Service and California Department of General Services in cutting down the towering fir each year for the past 35 Christmases.

It might be his last year doing it, Anderson pondered.

“If I keep doing this, I’m going to keep saying yes,” Anderson said. “I’ll probably help them find a company and vet them out and how much tree experience they have.”

It has been an honor for him to do the work, he told the Mountain Democrat. 

“It has always been a high point of our year to be able to do this and roll my machine up on the state capitol,” Anderson said. “It’s our 15 seconds of fame once a year.” 

Maneuvering the tree, which came from one of many in an experimental research plantation at the Camino station planted in the 1960s, is a delicate process and Anderson is an expert. 

His crane holds the tree from above as tree wrangler Kirk Malon with the state Department of General Services climbs up it’s trunk with a chainsaw. Once severed the conifer floats above it’s stump as Anderson slowly manipulates his crane to maneuver the tree onto a Cal Fire rig, a process that can take hours to assure safety for all involved.

When dealing with a tree that weighs thousands of pounds and is dozens of feet tall, it is always a blessing when things go smoothly, Anderson told the Mountain Democrat.

“We’ve just been very fortunate for the last 35 years to be able to do it safely,” Anderson said. 

Forest Service support specialist Kelly Hooten overheard Anderson might retire and gave audible disapproval.

“We like having you here,” Hooten told Anderson. 

Hooten said it used to be tradition for the the capitol Christmas tree to come from the Eldorado National Forest.

The tree was transported the same day to be erected in front of the capitol building in Sacramento. State Department of General Services staff will start lighting the tree Nov. 7 and will keep decorating the tree until Nov. 23, when it will be lit for the holiday season.

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